Teens are raising $5,000 for hospice and donating their hair for wigs

WILLMAR -- Long or short, spiked straight up or colored to match a crayon. Or perhaps, not combed or washed for days -- hair is part of any teen's image. Two Willmar youth are just as hair conscious as the rest of their generation, but for a comp...

WILLMAR -- Long or short, spiked straight up or colored to match a crayon. Or perhaps, not combed or washed for days -- hair is part of any teen's image. Two Willmar youth are just as hair conscious as the rest of their generation, but for a completely different reason.

Eighteen-year-olds Jenna Kolstad and Janine Kidd have spent the last five months working to raise $5,000 for Rice Hospice. When they reach their goal, they will cut their hair and donate it to a program that uses the hair to make wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair in treatment.

Kolstad's brunette hair has never been shorter than shoulder-length. The Willmar High School senior figures the donated cutting will be between 12 and 15 inches long.

"People who have cancer are struggling to grow hair," Kolstad says. "Mine will grow back."

Kidd, a freshman nursing student at the University of Minnesota, cannot donate her long, blonde dreadlocks to the program, but is going to cut off her locks anyway. Both admit to a bit of trepidation about having short hair.


"We keep reminding each other that it will be OK," Kidd said.

As of Friday, the grand total raised by Kolstad and Kidd was $3,832. They also have an anonymous donor, who is a local citizen, who has agreed to donate $700 when they reach the $4,300 mark, making the $5,000 goal a reality.

The idea came to Kolstad one day this summer while she was on her way to work at LuLu Beans coffee shop. She saw a friend's mother, who is going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, outside of her home without a wig or a wrap on her bare head.

Kolstad's first thought was that it would be cool to donate her hair to the woman without any hair at all. She got to work at the coffee shop and started brainstorming with Kidd, who also works at LuLu Beans. What began as a "that would be cool" thought became a quest to raise $5,000 for Rice Hospice. And, when they got to the monetary goal, they would cut their hair and donate that too.

The first, and most constant, fundraiser is a fishbowl accepting donations on the counter at LuLu Beans along Willmar's First Street. Since August, there have been about 20 fundraisers, including a car wash, a yard sale, hot dog nights, plus silent auction, open microphone and special music events at the coffee shop.

The teens and their bosses, Laure and Jack Swanson, have many touching stories to tell about the regular people who have donated to the fundraiser or told their personal stories of battles with cancer. One woman, getting a coffee via the drive-through, saw "hospice" on the sign, and turned around to come back to donate because her husband died over the summer and hospice helped him and the family in his final months of life.

One woman told Kolstad a great story, but first warned her that she might cry. Her sister was receiving chemotherapy and had wigs to cover her bare head. The wigs just didn't look right, the woman said, adding that "your hair would look so good on my sister."

Kolstad has been the mainstay of the fundraising effort. As a U of M student, Kidd was in Argentina this fall studying Spanish. She was raising "international awareness," she says, because hospice is not something people knew about in South America.


"Jenna was really the one behind it all," Kidd says.

When Kolstad felt the weight of the challenge to raise $5,000, her family, friends and the Swansons helped motivate her. After last summer's Relay for Life event didn't go as well for her personal goals as she had wanted, she was looking for another way to give. That's when she saw her friend's mom on the way to work.

The fire for the fundraiser started, and just kept on burning. Laure has helped the teens organize the many events and has realized they, especially Kolstad, are seriously motivated.

"They were just would up like tops," she said. "They really, really wanted to make an impact."

The teens have several connections to cancer and hospice. Kolstad's father, Willmar Police Detective Kris Kolstad, is a cancer survivor who battled Hodgkin's lymphoma. Kidd's grandma works with the local hospice organization and is quite proud of her granddaughter.

"She couldn't stop smiling about it at Thanksgiving," Kidd said.

The fundraiser, except for the beginning donation of $1,000 from the Kolstad family and the anonymous $700 donor, has included small, private donations. All of the events have been at or near LuLu Beans and most involve the employees, regulars and friends of the coffee shop.

"You realize that there are good people out there," Laure Swanson said. "It's pretty humbling, people are generous."

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